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T Burley

Review of plane construction details

Alternative craftsman Thos Burley 1779-1859

Wakefield and Brookfield, NH

T Burley

Plane Talk first reported on T Burley in 1987 noting a blanket chest found in 1983 which "contained a group of tools, including 7 planes imprinted T. BURLEY. ""The signed planes included a crown molder, a panel raiser (with a P. Law iron), two compass planes and three molding planes 10" long. There were additional planes, unsigned but having the characteristics of the imprinted Burley planes, including three additional crown molders. Earlier, in a Sept. 1981 Bittner Auction, a plow plane body with the T. Burley imprint was offered. Two other examples, not part of the Bittner lot, have recently been reported, both 10" long molding planes. " Plane Talk put forward a maker of the planes; "Referred to in various land deeds as a joyner, Thomas Burley was born 1723 and died 1805 in Epping NH. He is listed as the builder of several houses."

GAWP5, provides additional details on T Burley planes; "Molding planes are 10" - 9 1/2" beech with flat, and several with round, chamfers" and bench planes having "shallow flat chamfers". A later "B" wedge is included which is associated with molders having round chamfers. GAWP5 dates the planes to ca. 1780-1800.

Pertinent questions arise ...

Has the correct craftsman been "identified" based on the existence of these later 9.5" molders with round chamfers? Might there be multiple generations?

A review was undertaken to help address these questions starting with soliciting additional examples of T Burley planes.



10" long T Burley molder courtesy of S Frazier through the Rhykenology group on Facebook.


As part of this assessment, Steve Frazier forwarded details on a crown molder and 2 molders in his collection. Importantly, all three of these T Burley planes had the same T Burley imprint, similar chamfer stop construction details and heavy rounded chamfers.  With the molders, one had the type B wedge and the other a later more swept back wedge style. Other than the wedge outline, the construction details on the two molders match.


Collectively, these round chamfered T Burley planes would have been made ca 1810 to 1820 and thus the 1723 Thomas Burley craftsman does not fit, although as noted, a second generation could have been responsible. (It is the editor's opinion that the 1723 Thomas Burley is too early for the flat chamfered T Burley planes as well, as these planes seem to be closer to a 1780 date. Thus at least one generation off ... in the best case.)

A search for additional T Burley candidates started with the US census records between 1790 and 1850. Most T Burley's were found in NH (including Sandwich, Brentwood, Brookfield, Epping) with one in Boston, MA, one in Bucks Co. PA, one in NY state b ca  1790 -1800 and one in CT b ca 1810-1820. Period deeds and town histories were searched next. In addition, the reference "Genealogy of the Burley or Burleigh Family of America" was searched for candidates as well as helping to document family connections / generations. Only two craftsmen were definitively found; Thomas Burley (1723-1805) in Epping, NH and Thomas Burley (1779-1859) in Wakefield and Brookfield, NH, both joiners.

Thomas Burley (1723-1805) joiner in Epping was documented as a joiner in 10 deeds from 1750 through 1760. Thomas's son Thomas (1766-1847) and wife Nancy, appeared in the deed records between 1789 through 1799 as a yeoman or husbandman. Thomas Burley (1779-1859) was found in a single deed from Brookfield 1837 with the trade of a joiner.


The Candidates.

 Thomas Burley (1723-1805) was a lifelong joiner, but his working dates are just too early for the planes that have been documented.


Thomas Burley 1723, the joiner from Epping, NH, had a son Thomas (1766-1847) who was a prosperous farmer in Epping, NH. A search through various town and period records did not indicate that this later Thomas was engaged in his father's trade early in life and his probate did not include an inventory. So, this second Thomas cannot be regarded as a candidate at this point in time, but, he cannot be ruled out entirely. Thomas 1723 had a son Joseph who was a farmer, mechanic and tavern owner.

Thomas Burley (1779-1859) joiner, b in Wakefield, NH working and d Brookfield, NH.The 1850 census gives the families’ home as Brookfield, NH, his age as 70 and his trade as a joiner. Their son Thomas C b 1822, was also in the household at age 27, and also a joiner. Two other of Thomas's sons were also joiners; Jonathan b 1806 and Henry b 1808.


Brookfield records include the details surrounding the building of a meeting house between 1822 and 1835. In the 1822 annual meeting, Thomas Burley, Thomas Chamberland and Samuel Lang were voted in as a committee to find a site and procure subscriptions for the building of a new meeting house. These men became the building committee. In early 1823 or late 1822, the frame was erected. At the March 1823 town meeting, it was voted to finish the building and Thomas Burley was chosen as the superintendent for the work. Finally in 1835, a committee was chosen to finish the interior; Thomas Burley, Joseph Churchill and Dudley Pike.

(There's some conflict / discrepancy in the Burley Family of America regarding Thomas's (1779-1859) dates. The birth dates of Thomas and his siblings given in his parent's family entry are approximately 20 years later than the dates given for Thomas's own family. Specifically, his birthdate was initially given as 11-12-1799 whereas his and Nancy's children were born between 1806 to 1822. In his 1859 probate, Nancy and the children listed below, are all recorded, so his immediate family is verified. The NH birth records support the earlier 1779 birth date range as does the 1850 census cited above. It makes sense to recognize the 1779 birth date, as this is the one that is independently supported.)

Additional records for Thomas Burley (1779-1859)

Thomas born 11-12-1779 in Wakefield NH, to Jonathan Burley and Sarah (Haley) (assumed to be correct)

married Nancy Smith

Children born in Brookfield: Jonathan 1806, Henry 1808, Parkman 1811, Elmira 1814, William 1818, Nancy 1820 and Tomas C 1822.

Died 1-26-1859.

reference: Genealogy of the Burley or Burleigh Family of America, Charles Burleigh,1880.

1837 deed





1850 census

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